An ode to

It’s get­ting colder in Paris, but there is much to look for­ward to with the chang­ing of the sea­sons.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FAMILY - By VIVIEN QUAH

THIS morn­ing, af­ter I dropped the girls off at school, I walked briskly back home to our apart­ment. My hands dug deep into the pock­ets of my coat, my breath vis­i­ble in the cold morn­ing air, I fan­ta­sised about a bowl of hot noo­dles wait­ing for me on the kitchen ta­ble ... kuey teow th’ng prefer­ably, cili padi on the side. In our lit­tle street was a de­liv­ery truck filled with packs of fire­wood. There were no noo­dles wait­ing for me, but my kitchen was warm and cosy.

I need to deal with the fact that sum­mer is in­deed over. Af­ter all, the heat­ing in our apart­ment has been turned on since a cou­ple of weeks ago. We don’t use fire­wood, but lots of peo­ple do. And we ad­justed our clocks back­wards by one hour at the end of Oc­to­ber, putting an end to sum­mer day­light sav­ings.

It’s a con­cept alien to us in Malaysia, but the idea of day­light sav­ings was con­ceived as early as the 18th cen­tury, al­though it was re­ally only im­ple­mented in the early 1900s. Then, it was more a mat­ter of con­serv­ing can­dles and coals.

To­day, long sum­mer days al­low us to shop, do sports, dine, do what­ever we do out­doors, and just gen­er­ally give us the im­pres­sion that we have an ex­tra hour of day­light in the evening. It was a bit dif­fi­cult to try and ex­plain the con­cept to the chil­dren. They couldn’t wrap their heads around the idea, ques­tion­ing how we could pos­si­bly add an ex­tra hour to the day. It was also a bit more dif­fi­cult to shoo them off to bed, as it was still light at nine in the evening.

Well, with the days now get­ting shorter and shorter, shorts and slip­pers have given way to pullovers and thick coats, usu­ally in a som­bre colour, as though we were mourn­ing. Mourn­ing sum­mer.

The morn­ing rit­ual of the chil­dren get­ting dressed for school (the school uni­form is a thing of the past for France and the idea it­self for most French peo­ple is an af­front to their lib­erty) is punc­tu­ated with ex­cla­ma­tions from me: “Have you got an un­der­shirt?”, “That pullover is too light”, “How many lay­ers have you got on?”, “Those socks won’t do!”, “Are you warm enough?”, “Where’s your scarf?” and “You’re not leav­ing home with­out your gloves.”

And just as we leave the build­ing, “Are you warm enough?”

Al­right, I shall snap my­self out of this mor­bid train of thought and stop griev­ing.

Look­ing on the pos­i­tive side of things, au­tumn is of­ten thought of (thanks to Keats’ Ode To Au­tumn, per­haps) as the cli­max of sum­mer. It sig­ni­fies not the demise of sum­mer but fresh be­gin­nings and the plant­ing of new life. Lit­er­ally.

It’s the best time to plant a tree or a bulb for next spring. We did ex­actly that with the chil­dren at their grand­fa­ther’s house in the coun­try. We de­cided to pick a fruit tree that would bear fruit around the time we are usu­ally there, so as to be able to en­joys its spoils. It’s a tra­di­tion we in­tend to keep: plant­ing a tree a year. We are lucky to have a coun­try es­cape, and we head there dur­ing the warmer months when we can.

We were there just at the start of au­tumn, which is also usu­ally the open­ing of the hunt­ing sea­son or what we say “la chasse” in French. Al­though it isn’t ex­actly the Wild West, hunters here out­num­ber those of most other coun­tries’ in Europe. Ap­par­ently it’s the sec­ond most pop­u­lar sport af­ter foot­ball (ac­cord­ing to France’s sec­ond-largest news­pa­per, Le Fi­garo).

Af­ter a pause of six months to al­low an­i­mals to re­pro­duce and grow, hunt­ing sea­son re­opened this year to even big­ger num­bers. Hunters in France come from all so­cial back­grounds, not like some coun­tries where it is only prac­tised by the gen­try. You won’t find me go­ing na­tive on this one. I get enough sport walk­ing to the butcher for my meat. And there is no risk of shoot­ing my­self in the foot. Plus, I pre­fer my meat slaugh­tered, cut and read­ied by some­one else, thank you very much.

In the vil­lage where my fa­therin-law’s house is, we could hear echoes of shots in the morn­ings. Even sporty Mon­sieur de­cided that a bike ride in the vine­yards in the foggy morn­ings may not be a good idea. No way he could be mis­taken for a bird nor a boar, but you never know.

So, if you are out for a stroll in the French coun­try­side this au­tumn, I rec­om­mend you cast aside your fash­ion in­stincts for this sea­son’s very-in an­i­mal print mo­tifs and in­stead opt for some bright can’t-miss-me-neon colours. That was ex­actly what I did when I went to pick some figs and nuts from the gar­den. With my bright yel­low boots, blue scarf and pink rain­coat on, I cut quite the strik­ing fig­ure and I quote my fash­ion guru, my seven-year old daugh­ter, “Who wants to be co­or­di­nated? It’s bor­ing to be co­or­di­nated.” Bet­ter be safe than co­or­di­nated, may I add.

What’s great about liv­ing with the four sea­sons are the dif­fer­ent things to look for­ward to each sea­son. In the sum­mer, we spend a lot of time out­doors away from the city. We take our velos and bike through vil­lages and vine­yards, fer­vently look­ing out for wild berries. Soon enough, the girls and I get left be­hind, the cor­ners of our mouths stained a deep red – a give­away to our berry stops. Mon­sieur, in the mean­time, waits im­pa­tiently for his greedy pack that mar­vels at

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